Somehow I’d always thought that a glacier would be pretty smooth, probably because they one we stood on in Canada had been.
The Franz Josef Glacier in NZ totally corrected me on that point!
We’d been due to go up the previous day but due to high winds, they couldn’t fly. It did mean we got time to visit the KIWI sanctuary and actually see 3 of the elusive little critters up close. So sad that there are so few left now, and all the fault of mankind, bringing in predators to the ecosystem, including domestic dogs which account for a large numbers of kiwi deaths. Captive breeding and raising on a remote island with no other wildlife is proving a way forward, but so sad that it’s necessary in the first place.
So, back to that glacier. Our first close up view was from the helicopter which dropped us about two thirds of the way up.
And here is the other half of our party arriving
It was impossible to stand up on the ice without crampons, let alone walk! And as the glacier moves several metres per day, the guides have to cut steps fresh each morning, and we were amongst the first up that day, which made for slow going.
Here’s our guide, Sam, showing how it’s done.
Boy, those guys are fit!
And see what I mean about not flat!
The ice is full of holes and running water. Where the pressure super-compresses the ice it turns this amazing shade of blue
I took this down inside an ice cave, and believe me, it really is that colour!
though I freely admit I chickened out of crawling further in – I get claustrophobic. We also got a bit close to the edge of the glacier at one point, and I don’t like heights either!
‘Walking’ was quite a challenge at times, and this was a 3 hour trek – believe me, you need to be moderately fit to consider doing this!
And be prepared for a bit of potholing…
The weather changes really abruptly up there. Bear in mind this was middle of summer and at ground level we’d been in shirt sleeves, so it was a bit of a shock when it started snowing. Just a couple of days ago, we were in South Otago, the most arid part of New Zealand, where irrigation is always the main topic of conversation. Then here we were, on the west coast of the same island, in an area of tropical rain forest and on top of a glacier, where they get 12 metres of rain a year.
Yes, you read that right – 12 METRES!
So with the weather closing in, we had to head back down to the chopper
And then back down the glacier. We’d managed the full 3 hours on the ice, exhausting but the most amazing experience and so glad we managed to get up there before the weather shut down flights for another day.
And then it was onward, for an 8 hour drive across South Island back to Kaikoura where we were staying the last week with an old friend of mine who emigrated a few years ago. En route I finally managed to get a decent snap of one of the deer herds
In those 8 hours of driving, once we’d turned inland we say all of 5 cars. Yes, the roads are really busy out there. Not.
What a delight!
Last stop coming up – Kaikoura, the beautiful coastal resort where seals, whales, dolphins and albatross abound. See you next post, which really WILL be the last one from this trip.